Rajapaksa said that two years of continuous protests and agitation by the student unions and the Government Medical Officers’ Association against the medical degree course offered by SAITM ended last November due to the undertaking given by the Government that this medical course will be abolished.
Now however, he says the GMOA and the student unions have expressed concern that the Government is preparing to renege on their pledge.
“Even though members of the Government have been saying from time to time that the SAITM was started by my Government, this is a private enterprise started by its owners, not by any Government. At the initial stages in 2008, SAITM was called the ‘South Asian Institute of Technology and Management’ and was to offer courses in Information Technology, Management and Finance, Engineering, Vocational Studies, Nursing, Languages and Health Sciences. No mention had been made in the original Board of Investment application about a medical degree course. The BOI had granted approval for the enterprise on the condition that approval will be obtained from the Ministry of Health before providing training in Health Sciences. SAITM had commenced enrolling students for a medical degree course from September 2009 onwards,” he said.
Rajapaksa said that from the very beginning, the Sri Lanka Medical Council had been warning the public by way of newspaper advertisements that they do not recognise the medical degree offered by SAITM.
“In February 2011, this institution changed its name to ‘South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine’. If any private educational establishment wishes to offer a course in medicine, it is entirely up to them to obtain the necessary approvals from the Sri Lanka Medical Council which is the body that oversees medical education and accredits and licences medical professionals in this country,” he said.
Rajapaksa says the Government should ensure that there is no further disruption of medical education with university students taking to the streets and medical officers forced into taking trade union action on account of the disputed medical degree course.
He also said that the continuation of the dispute over standards and accreditation in medical education could also place the international status of all Sri Lankan medical degrees at risk.
“The SAITM issue has already come to the attention of the medical authorities in countries like Britain and Australia with which the Sri Lankan medical profession interacts very closely. Therefore this issue should be resolved in a just and reasonable manner without further delay,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)